The Life of a European Tour Guide

You know that you have a very special job when the once-in-a-lifetime becomes the every day. When the abnormal becomes the norm. When dealing with the unexpected becomes standard procedure. When the unreal becomes your everyday reality.

For the past two years, I’ve worked as a Tour Guide in Europe for Busabout.

Usually, I get the same response, regardless of who I’m telling that to. Their eyebrows raise and they blink as the information is processed. Half a second later their face lights up, followed by a reply of “cool!”, “wow!”, “no way!”, “dude, you’ve got like the perfect job” or something similar.

Way back in 2010 when I set off on my first European adventure, I actually travelled with Busabout as a passenger. Ticking off 11 countries on that trip, I was overwhelmed by the incredible mix of cultures, cuisine, people and landscapes that we travelled across.

Not only was I blown away by Busabout’s focus on experience, independence and flexibility, but the tour guides that I met were really helpful, inspiring and true travellers. “I couldn’t do this”, I thought to myself and after a year back in Australia saving for future travels, I applied for the gig. A cross-continental flight, interviews, months of studying and 7 weeks of intense training later, and I was catapulted into a lifestyle of non-stop country hopping, teaching and learning, food sampling and importantly, direct experience with people and places that I had only heard tales about.

I’ll be honest. It is amazing. I’ve never had any job like it. I never thought I would be able to travel with groups of 30-50 people, through 20-odd European countries AND get paid to do what I love – travelling. In that sense, it is a dream job. But like any job, the life of a tour guide has its ups and downs.

I’ve woken up with demonic hangovers, cursed myself, and then had to meet and introduce a tour to 40 new people. Taking vitriolic abuse from clients, locals and ship captains on a daily basis, forces you to grow a thick skin. Occasionally, I’ll have to rescue drunk adults from dark alleyways on the wrong side of town and cart them off to hospital. The list goes on and it becomes easy to moan and complain when things go wrong.

But…

I wake up some days thinking, “ Sweet, today I’m going to Berlin/Sarajevo/Valencia/etc – just another day at the office” and few people can say that. That office window is constantly changing and sometimes I tick off 3 countries in a day. I get to meet some truly inspiring people and have now got friends (and places to stay!) all over the world. Never before have I been able to learn and teach in such a dynamic and varied capacity before.

And most importantly, even though I sometimes fail to realize it, through the medium of travel, I’m able to change peoples lives’ every day.

You just can’t put a price on that.

Snapping some pics in the Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Snapping some pics in the Triglav National Park, Slovenia

9 thoughts on “The Life of a European Tour Guide

  1. To me it sounds really crazy – cramming so many countries and cities in so few days. Doesn’t it all blend into a crazy whirlwind? Not for you as a guide – you’re working, but for the people on the tour it must be very confusing.

    • Spot on Michael – for me, I’m used to the constant moving around as I’ve been working it for a while.
      For passengers, it depends:
      Busabout’s main product is a hop-on hop-off system that allows you to stay for technically as long as you want in each place.
      The shorter, intensive week long tours can be a bit crazy, but at the same time I find people often use them to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ or simply to get a taste of a region before deciding whether or not to return and check it out in depth. Its the classic “traveller” versus “tourist” debate.

      • Yes, that “traveller” vs “tourist” thing – personally, I don’t think there is a conflict. I can be a traveller AND a tourist, no problem. Some people just think that if they call themselves a “traveller” it will make them sound better, as a sort of explorer.

        I can see how the trips can be useful as bus routes though.

      • Having done it before and seen it from the other side, I can understand how the routes and “taste” of each place can definitely be useful to people on, for instance a first time Europe trip.

        That old traveller/tourist debate never gets settled does it… I guess the most important thing for me is that the person is out there doing the act of travelling, however they go about it or whatever they want to call themselves.

  2. Well put! You are living my dream job, but its good to see the other side of it as well. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, and it seems like that is true of this as well. I hope you don’t let those things get to you too much! How did you manage to get into this job? This is a part I have been unsure about in following my dream!

    • Exactly – you get the good, the bad and the ugly in any job. You’ve just gotta choose not to let it all get you down!
      I went through the application process – most tour companies have a recruitment section on their website – so you just need to keep an eye on that depending who/where/what you’re aiming for. Usually European companies begin recruiting in September/October for the following year.

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